Robust red wines to warm you up

As the mercury drops and locals pull out coats and boots (we like to pretend we need our North Face puffers, alpine-ready beanies, and Uggs), cool white wines take a breather, and chest-warming reds dominate wine lists. Taking a hiatus from the "light, crisp, and refreshing" whites that dominate our summers, San Diegan wine lovers search for elixirs with "muscular, jammy, and robust" character.

This year, instead of looking straight to Napa for big cabernets and syrahs, look no further than our own county for your cold-weather reds. Here are a few sure-fire hits for gifts or cozy fireside movie nights.

Bellorosso, Milagro, Ramona

This "Super Tuscan" blend of sangiovese, cabernet, and merlot hits the spot for a variety of wine drinkers. The award-winning Bellorosso pleases with notes of cherry, currant, blackberry and dark chocolate. 

Carignan, Vesper Cellars, Escondido

This red varietal, widely planted around the world and commonly blended with syrah and grenache, stands on its own at Vesper Cellers. Look for notes of cranberry, raspberry, cinnamon, and star anise. Find it by the glass at Indigo Grill (1536 India St., Little Italy, cohnrestaurants.com/indigogrill) for $13, and by the bottle at Island Prime (880 Harbor Island Drive, Harbor Island, cohnrestaurants.com/islandprime) for $58.

Multiple varietals, Carruth Cellars

Providing a dazzling array of flavor profiles for any palate, this urban winery has full-bodied, hearty reds galore. Take your pick by the glass of zinfandel, cabernets, syrah, malbec, merlot, barbera, and even a syrah port at their two locations, in Solana Beach (118 S. Cedros Ave.) and Carlsbad (2727 State St.). Don't miss the gold medal award-winning BDX Bordeaux blend of cabernet, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and petit verdot.

Estate Syrah, Orfila Vineyards & Winery, Escondido

Juicy and full bodied with notes of black cherry and clove baking spice, the syrah at Orfila Vineyards & Winery is perfect for hearty winter dishes. Find it by the glass at Sea 180 Coastal Tavern (800 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach, cohnrestaurants.com/sea180) for $8 or $28 by the bottle, and at Corked craft beer and wine bar inside Harrah's Resort SoCal (33750 Valley Center Road, Valley Center, harrahssocal.com). Traditional merlot fans can find the winery's easygoing red at Union Kitchen & Tap Encinitas (1108 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, localunion101.com) for $11 a glass. For a dense-by-the-fire wine, try the Estate Petite Sirah, with warming notes of cocoa, tobacco, and black fruits, retailing at $38.

Malbec, Abnormal Wine Co.

Fans of this wildly popular grape varietal can look to Abnormal for their winter red fix. Notes of black fruit, vanilla, cocoa, and a well-balanced, smooth palate make this a surefire wine for robust dishes or a stand-alone sipper. Look for their offerings by the glass and bottle at in-house restaurant, The Cork & Craft (16990 Via Tazon, Rancho Bernardo, thecorkandcraft.com).

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